Tag Archives: outreach

Shorts too short, and other lessons in culture

17 Jan

The school Healthy Grenada is working with had a PTA meeting tonight, so Frond and I went to introduce the program to the parents. As we were sitting waiting for the meeting to start, the principal pulled us aside into another classroom and asked who was going to be presenting. Frond said both of us. But she replied that I wouldn’t be able to do it because of my shorts. I don’t have many shorts, and the one pair that I wear a lot while here are pretty short I suppose. Not by North American standards, but for a Roman Catholic Elementary school, I could see what the principal was talking about. She said that I could hand out the fliers we had made, but I couldn’t be presenting. In the end, I went home to change and we presented together.

I appreciated the principal pointing this out to me, as it’s important. But I felt bad because I had worn these shorts to the school before, while doing activities with the kids. It really hit me that for all my trying to make Healthy Grenada a culturally competent program, I had overlooked many basic things.

We stayed for the entire PTA meeting, where parents shared some things they had learned about food, artifacts, and songs that their “forefathers” used. Grenada’s independence day is coming up in February, and judging by the efforts going in to it around town, it’s a pretty big deal. The principal and vice went on to talk about programs they are running for the students, including Sports Days (with an “Infant Cross Country Race” where the kindergarteners run a cross country course — incredible! People were saying how it was such a short course, but to me it sounded like quite a length), Spelling Contests, Reading Contests, and an ongoing school-wide Physical Activity competition. I was thinking the whole time about how I had came in to the school with so many assumptions about what the school had to offer their students. It had me wondering what exactly Healthy Grenada had to bring that would benefit the school. Was the school doing us more of a favour, by giving us a chance to volunteer with their kids? During their school time? I felt like a silly tourist.

After the meeting, we went to thank the Principal for inviting us to the meeting. She asked where we were from, and when we told her she said how we’re three different cultures. We agreed, adding that we’ve got a lot to learn from them, and she said, “Yes a lot to learn from each other” and gestured her hand back and forth between the 3 of us.

A look back on Healthy Grenada, launched!

20 Nov



Who's the fastest?


Grade 4s at Grand Anse RC race for the title, at the first official Healthy Grenada outing.

Soccer comics for development and peace

18 Nov

United Nations Sport for Development and Peace comicbook!

Soccer stars and their fans are stranded on a deserted island and work together to survive.  All while addressing the Millenium Development Goals!

Such an awesome comic.  A shared this with me.  We found a new school to work with for the Healthy Grenada project, and after a few trial runs we’ve decided to start working with Grade 6s.  This is something we could totally use.  So good!

“I want to be white too”

20 Oct

This afternoon A, Frond, DJSherv and I went to a primary school near by.

We rumbled past lush greenery on a semi-deserted road in DJSherv’s new jeep, turned a corner and there were tons of little knee-high kids running around in twos, threes.  They were each dressed in either all green, all red, or all yellow and were maybe in grade 1 or kindergarten.  It was like a multicoloured ant hill.

On the other side were older kids dressed in long navy blue pleated skirts, white collared short-sleeved blouses and red ties or navy pants and white dress shirts.  These kids were leaning over the railing, yelling, sometimes throwing food, sometimes just chillaxing coolly.

We had came to talk about a new pilot program we are starting.  In light of the diabetes and obesity epidemic on the island (not unlike the one back home, except here you don’t get the meds or the same infrastructure support as home, so it’s not uncommon for young people to lose limbs because of their uncontrolled diabetes), we’re going to come in and help teach some life skills, healthy food choices, on the backdrop of fun physical activities.  Sounds great, right?  Well…

It was great to meet with the principal and tell her what we had planned.  She seemed really supportive.  It was cool to see the field and school grounds, and to be amongst so many kids.  So strange but nice to be surrounded by so many!  While the four of us were standing under the sun discussing how we would run the first session, planned for next week, a pair of grade 2 girls in their pleated dresses giggled their way behind me and were trying to get my attention.  One mouthed “What do you doooo?”.  They wanted to talk to me “behind the trees”, pointing back.  They asked me for candy, then asked me if I had candy on my paper (I was holding a piece of paper with a cartoon carrot on it).  It was cool, it was fun to banter with them a little.

After a few minutes we were ready to head back to campus, and I hopped back into the back of the jeep with the rest of the guys.  The two girls followed us to the back of the car.  One of them was had been something to me as I was walking to the jeep but between child-speak and my inability to completely learn the accent yet, I couldn’t tell what she was saying.  As we were about to back out, DJSherv asked A and I if there were still any kids standing behind the jeep.  We turned and just as she was getting out of the way, the girl who first tried to get my attention said “I want to be white too.”    A and I yelled “Nooooooo!” as DJSherv backed out and we drove away.

“We colonized them!”, A yelled.  Great.  The very last thing we wanted to do.

It’s alarmingly amazing how easy it is to plant the totally wrong impression of cultural superiority in kids this age.  Granted I don’t know if she already felt this way before we visited today, since I’m sure even someone as young as her is really attuned to the class and racial differences she has seen with all the healthy looking, well dressed, blackberry and iPhone carrying “white people” like us walking around, complaining loudly about stupid things, buying tons of expensive foods at the supermarket.  (NB: In terms of ancestry, A and DJSherv are Persian, Frond is Indian, I’m Chinese).

It just underscored how important it is to plan these kinds of things right.  It may have seemed like an appealing extra to have a Grenadian or at least Caribbean volunteer with us at these sessions, but after this girl’s comment, it seems like an essential thing.  We should definitely not continue the program without someone “non-white” there leading it up.  Luckily we have lots of people who we know would be interested.


9 Oct

The final leaderboard.

“hey guys we really need some volunteers for the wii tournament, you don’t have to be good at all, like me who totally sucks at any video game but its all for fun and charity. The event is going to be this saturday oct 8. Please by tonight, if you are interested please write back on here or send me a message. Thanks”.  – M

“hi m! i’ll play in the wii tournament if you still have space. i’m not so great but maybe i’ll have some beginners luck!” – me

Wii Olympics champs!  Having 3 older brothers who loved video games and subscribed to Nintendo Power has finally paid off.

Over $500 000 EC ($30 000US) raised and to be matched by the school to donate to:

  1. The only psychiatric hospital on the island, which we visited in third term and met patients of.  An honest institution, but with a bare concrete room for solitary, and a small 20 bed ward.  Lifers, teenagers, drug dealers, people coming off drug-induced schizophrenia and delusions, people with families and children whose progressive schizoaffective disorders made them alone and visitor-less in the hospital, on the island, and in their heads.  Hard working doctors who don’t try to hide the limitations of their institution or the state of affairs on the island, but who are working wholeheartedly to do the best for the wards.
  2. The Santa Claus Project, started by a student of my school, based in NYC where children of families below the poverty line get the chance to enjoy the excitement of getting a gift on Christmas.
  3. Doctors Without Borders in Somalia.  Decades of drought, scarred over-top with conflict, displacement, and now the most extreme food shortage the world has seen and perhaps the worst humanitarian crisis as well.

Plus, had a great conversation with Dr.B (my landlord) about charity and issues of accountability when making donations.  Sometimes it is better to give cash: , sometimes it is better to give supplies.

What an amazing night!  Unexpected. Top prize: Boat cruise, here we come!

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